Coronavirus outbreak forces cancellation of MotoGP opener in Qatar

Doha: The season-opening MotoGP race in Qatar next weekend has been cancelled because of travel restrictions on passengers from Italy and elsewhere due to the coronavirus epidemic, MotoGP said on Sunday.

The floodlit night race was scheduled for the Losail circuit on March 8.

Jack Miller’s Ducati is one of two MotoGP teams based in Italy. This week’s season opener in Qatar has been cancelled due to coronavirus.Credit:Getty

The joint statement by MotoGP, the governing FIM and teams' association IRTA said that as of Sunday all passengers arriving in Doha on direct flights from Italy, or who had been in Italy in the past two weeks, faced a minimum of 14 days in quarantine.

"Italy clearly plays a vital role in the championship and in the MotoGP class – both on track and off – and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition," the statement read.

The Moto2 and Moto3 categories will still race due to those teams and riders already being in Qatar for testing last week.

Aprilia and Australian rider Jack Miller's Ducati are Italy-based teams while Italian riders include Yamaha's MotoGP great Valentino Rossi.

The 22-strong grid features six Italian riders, with Italian engineers and mechanics spread across the paddock and a large media contingent in attendance.

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen to 34, the Civil Protection Agency said on Sunday, with the cumulative number of confirmed cases totalling some 1694 in the worst such contagion in Europe.

The second round on the MotoGP calendar is scheduled for Thailand on March 22 but that too has been the subject of some uncertainty.

Formula One, whose season starts in Australia on March 15, has already cancelled its Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for Shanghai on April 19.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto last week said he wanted travel assurances before his staff started the journey to Melbourne.

Teams have already re-routed their flights through the Middle East to avoid transit in Far Eastern countries, and Doha is a popular hub.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled for the weekend after Australia.

Italy-based Ferrari, overall runners-up last year and the sport's oldest and most glamorous team, also provide Haas and Alfa Romeo with engines.

Alpha Tauri and F1's sole tyre supplier Pirelli are also headquartered in Italy.


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